Musings that come out of the latest BAMF podcast. If you want to listen to it first, it is here.
I started by thinking of the old Hero Games practice of labelling certain powers as potential story-breakers. “If someone has this power, it will probably derail many plots and adventures”
While I think it's a great idea (and one I have stolen in the past for campaign design: “These powers are verboten or need to have heavy limits....”), I wonder if the power level is the right place to apply it.
Even though it might be more words total, I suspect that this is a per-adventure thing, and might be better applied there.
A murder mystery, for instance, might be totally undone by a hero's Telepathy, even if the actual killer was set up for Death By Cop and isn't around to be questioned.
A vigilante hero — maybe Touchstone — who gets to pick one crime and his mystical gadget will identify the guilty party when pressed against the perpetrator's skin. Can only be reset by identifying the guilty party or a long mystical ritual that is only worth going through between adventures when the guilty party has no touchable skin, such as jail in South Africa or death by acid. The question must also be asked correctly, but I don't see that as a big problem; a skill or specialty in power use would offset it.
I'm imagining stealth, lockpicking, the Ring of Samash (made of unicorn horn), and two trusty pistols (named Crime and Punishment). Maybe a grappling gun.
Touchstone Prowess 4 Intellect 4 Coordination 4 Awareness 4 Strength 4 Willpower 5 Stamina 9 Determination 2 Specialties Law (+1), Martial Arts (+1), Weapons (guns) (+1), Power use: Detect (+1)
- Great (6) Detect: Ring of Samash (Is this person guilty of specified crime?) Limit: Can only change question with Advantage or if answer is “Yes” (+2 levels from 4)
- Fair (4) Shooting: Pistol Extra: Fast Attack (second pistol)
- Fair (4) Grappling Gun (Swinging)
- Father killed by escaped criminal
- Tough DA
- Mother and brother don't know
Anyway, a given adventure might or might not be derailed by something like Telepathy. In some games, Danger Sense is very powerful and might break an adventure that relies on surprise; in others, it's just an enhanced awareness.
What I'm wondering instead is whether an adventure should have something like this at the beginning:
These are powers that are very difficult to safeguard against for this adventure, short of negating the power itself. This includes powers that would normally be circumvented but in this adventure, there's no way to make the circumvention happen.
|These powers can be circumvented, and here's how! (The reason for the circumvention might need to be adjusted. If the reason doesn't apply in your game, the power becomes a “Broken By” powers.)
Is that useful? I dunno. It seems to me that most writers go through that list any time they produce an adventure for publication, even if only mentally. (Adventures for your home group generally don't, because you know what your group's characters can do. You've either taken care of the problematic powers or they don't show up for you at all.
I know I would have found it useful in adapting some published adventures to my group (yes, I'm looking at you, Champions).
Still, modern adventures tend to do a better job of handling these sorts of exceptions, so maybe this is a solution in search of a problem.
Let's broaden the scope a bit.
So in an adventure, we want:
- Scenes with purpose
- Problems rather than solutions (generally, I figure that if I can imagine one way to get out, that's good enough; the players can think of more, and I don't ever have to tell them what that one way is, let alone direct them to it)
- Reusable NPCs and organizations for the world-building
- A list of things not to do or it will break the adventure
- A suggestion what to do when the players take the obviously bad turn (Professor McGlothlin talked about this as "What if the characters take the agreement?")
Don't stress yourself out too much, though: you aren't writing a story. I think Mr. Kenson was right in saying that story really happens as you recount the adventure.
- They will try things you had not thought of.
- They won't do the thing you think is so obvious.
It's a wonder that adventures ever get written at all.